Editor's Note: The following is a post from Scott Woodgate and Karri Alexion-Tiernan, Windows Azure Product Marketing

Over the past few months, you’ve probably heard of us talking about ‘the Power of And’, as we’ve shared a number of ways that Windows Server on-premises and Windows Azure in the cloud can help enterprises take advantage of cloud speed, scale and economics.  Today, we’re extending that power through a number of new investments for both developers and IT pros alike.  

For our developers, we understand that development and test scenarios are often an organization’s first step in their journey to the cloud.  So today, we are excited to share that your MSDN subscription is going to make it easier and faster for you to develop on Windows Azure.  Starting today, the new Windows Azure MSDN benefit offers up to $150 per month in credits to use on any Azure service of your choice for development and testing.  You can select from a number of preconfigured virtual machines from Microsoft available in the Windows Azure Virtual Machine Image Gallery, images provided by the open source community, or you can upload your own virtual machines with the software included in your MSDN Subscription, except for Windows Client.  Better still, when you run your MSDN software using Windows Azure virtual machines, there is no additional cost.  You can find additional details on the MSDN benefit here. Speaking of fast, Visual Studio Professional, Premium and Ultimate with MSDN subscribers who activate and use their Windows Azure MSDN benefit before September 30th, 2013 are also automatically entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win an Aston Martin V8 Vantage sports car

While this is great news for developers, we also understand that economics is always top of mind for IT too.  Whether you’re a large or small business, the bottom line matters.  Previously we mentioned a price reduction on Virtual Machines to ensure that enterprise customers do not feel they need to sacrifice price for performance.  Today, we have another economic benefit to share with you.  We are changing the way that we charge for our Virtual Machine usage. 

Starting today, customers will be charged for usage by the minute rather than by the hour, with no minimum use requirement – which means no more rounding up for our customers; you will now pay only for what you use.  If you stop your VM, you don’t pay for the compute.  With other cloud providers, you’ll find that you will be charged by the hour, even if you only use five minutes, or you’ll be forced to take a minimum number of minutes that still may be more than your actual usage.

Let’s put this in context.  If I use a two core Linux virtual machine with just over 3GB of memory on Windows Azure for 65 minutes, or one hour and five minutes, it would cost $.13, charged to the minute.  If I use a similar configuration on an alternative cloud provider I would pay more as they will bill me for a full two hours even though I am only using five minutes of the second hour. Depending on my location choice at the alternate provider, my cost could be as high as $.32 for the equivalent service, a difference of $.19 for that one instance. While this may feel like a small cost delta on a single virtual machine, multiply that by the thousands of virtual machines that you may ultimately run, the difference adds up quickly.    Suddenly you may find your cloud economics are not what you thought they would be.  We want to ensure our customers have access to all the benefits of the cloud, without price being a barrier.

Although we are changing our billing approach, we aren’t reducing the quality of service we deliver.  When using Windows Azure you will continue to receive highly available services with monthly SLAs, along with the scale, support and reliability of our cloud platform that customers such as Jackson Hewitt have come to rely upon. The #2 ranked tax preparer in the United States, Jackson Hewitt is using Windows Azure Infrastructure Services running SQL Server 2012 to meet the computational burst requirements during peak tax season. Their lead application architect recently told us that “it’s an absolute requirement to be able to scale to need and remain highly available” for their customers, but that they trusted Windows Azure to get the job done seamlessly, especially during their busiest peak tax season.

We’re working hard to provide our customers with an optimal hybrid cloud experience, and a key ingredient is ensuring that on-premise resources can connect seamlessly to Windows Azure. To meet our enterprise customers’ diverse hardware configuration needs, we’re also pleased to share that VPN devices from F5, Citrix and WatchGuard are now supported for site-to-site networking, in addition to already supported devices from Cisco and Juniper.

Last but not least, we are also announcing a first to market in public cloud services with a preview of BizTalk Services, a cloud-based B2B integration platform service that provides easy connectivity to on-premises LOB apps and is available exclusively on Windows Azure. With BizTalk Services, developers and IT pros will be able to further the ‘Power of And’ by building, managing and accessing robust hybrid applications that tap into a wide range of enterprise data and systems across a variety of devices. BizTalk Services offers full EDI processing, cloud application integration and hybrid connectivity to on-premises LOB systems. You can find more information here and sign up for the Preview here.

All of our new investments including new global datacenters in China, Australia, and Japan, will help our customers to achieve global scale while continuing to enable both developers and IT Pros to take full advantage of the benefits Windows Azure can provide.  We’re on the ground in New Orleans kicking off conference season with TechEd 2013.  If you’re in town swing by the Azure booth and say hello, ask a few questions, try out a Windows Azure challenge to win a prize, or get started with a Windows Azure trial today.  We hope to see you there!

Scott & Karri